1 Chronicles 28

David was so much more involved with the temple than I ever imagined. Solomon built it, but David micro managed about every detail before he died.

He repeats, as he hands over the final instructions, that he can’t build it because he’s a soldier that shed too much blood.

He did. But God could forgive him that, I wonder if God is also leading the old man not into temptation.

The census debacle a couple of chapters ago showed David’s very human desire to be proud of his reign, to want to leave a legacy to what he achieved as Israel’s greatest king, bringing together their greatest period.

Maybe he could not have built the temple without falling into that sin, an old man’s sin.

It’s so Moses-like, leading God’s people to the edge of closure, but not being the one to claim it.

Moses’ sin, such as it was, was pretending to be God’s voice. He berated the people out of his own frustration, when God had not asked him to. Both needed to fight pomposity.

As I head towards late middle age, if not old age, it’s not what I expected to see in the passage. I have achieved remarkably little on earth, so I would have thought I was safe from pomposity.

But this blog is driven by a sense of legacy, it’s in there, in my motives. And my plan to write a song for every book, definitely. Though it’s also my identity and my pleasure in who I’ve been created to be. David was a song writer, and God didn’t seem to put any limits on that.

Intriguingly though… I wonder if he wrote crush/love songs about Bathsheba? Only the regret song, Psalm 51 made the Bible cut. But I digress.

I also have a problem with timidity, and the verse that rang out to me in the spirit was when David said to his son Solomon “Be confident and determined. Start the work and don’t let anything stop you.

I also let everything stop me. I seriously do.

So is God saying: achieve lots, and don’t achieve lots?

Perhaps the resolution of the conflict lies in the centre phrase, which I hadn’t noted till now “start the work”. Not “make sure you finish it” that is not the point.

Collaboration is a word bursting with godly potential. It’s how dreams become a journey, which is what they perhaps need to do to lead us not into temptation. In the process, they break a bit, get tarnished, they morph, perhaps you never actually reach them.

Sounding very “it’s a wonderful life”.

Do what God needs to be done. Live in God’s present, respond to it. That is closer to eternity than devoting our energy to planning our earthly memorial. As Jesus put it “store up for yourself treasure in heaven”.

So there is my dual message: be bold, seize the promptings of the spirit in the present, but don’t plan a self aggrandising future. Do and don’t do.

My job insecurity is eating me up a bit this week.

I offer that, my present, and my legacy on the altar God says is within the temple of my body, built upon the ruins of David and Solomon’s earthly monument of stone and cedar.

Woah!

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1 Chronicles 12

King Saul made David an enemy of Israel, and David refused to fight back. This is the story of how he got support to claim the throne.

Many soldiers joined him, even some who went possibly to spy on him ended up joining him. The story is told of the man who became commander of the elite ’30’, having a prophetic utterance, recognising God is on David’s side.

The structure of the narrative makes it clear he is a unifier: it goes through all the tribes, listing his support, starting with Benjamin, Saul’s tribe.

The momentum builds until he has a huge army, the people gather to him, and the is spontaneous feasting and joy, he’s that kind of guy in that kind of moment.

David followed God, and God’s plan unfolded around him.

I have a small sense of that at work, I get panicky if I try to think of the big picture, but I clearly know what would be the right thing to do moment to moment. David surrendered to God the big picture.

Jeremiah 35

An example of obedient Israelites.

Jeremiah shows Israel very publicly in the temple the example of the rechabites.

They are a sect within Israel, similar to hippies or Amish people, they style their life as the Israelites in the wilderness, living in tents.

They have a vow of abstinence, which Jeremiah demonstrates by placing wine before them in the temple and inviting them to drink. The high profile location and Jeremiah’s status as a prophet would have added to the pressure on them, but they decline.

He praises their obedience, and promises they will always”have a man to stand before God”, which I had to look up. It’s a reward particularly relevant to obedience, of always being able to serve God.

They shame the disobedience of the rest of Israel.

I compare them in some ways also to the salvation army who I work for. A little quaint, sticking to a vow of temperance.

It’s a good example of God attitude to a sect or a denomination. He respects the obedience. It’s not a question of whether their rules a more “right” than the rest, is the passion in their hearts to subject themselves to the discipline.

And I must face that I have a bit of a problem with alcohol.

Much to think about, speaking to me today.

Jeremiah 14

This chapter is a dialogue of struggle between Jeremiah and God. They are talking about Israel, but to each other.

Jeremiah’s bleak message for the people rips him apart. His epic struggle to obey God is a key theme of the book, and an ironic one.

His love for the people makes it so painful for him to obey God and prophesy doom and gloom for them. Yet that obedience also contrasts so extremely with their disobedience that it helps make the case for the message.

God and Jeremiah are a bit like parents of a wayward child. They are so frustrated that they can’t reach the child, they start to turn on each other.

Here Jeremiah paints to God a vivid picture of how a series of droughts are affecting not just his people but his creatures and creation. There is a strong emotional plea, manipulation even, in it.

He doesn’t promise their repentance as such, he can’t, but he goads God to act because of his character. “Are you a stranger?” he asks, “a visitor, a confused old man? Aren’t you supposed to be a mighty warrior who loves his people?” It’s quite a way to speak to God!

“Nup, not happening” God essentially replies in quite blunt terms. “And stop praying for them.”

Jeremiah tries a different tack, arguing they have been misled by false prophets. He’s implying that it’s not their fault.

God promises the false prophets and the people will perish, and gives Jeremiah a true word to take to them, of them shattered; dead and unburied in the fields of battle, starving and sick in the cities.

Despite God’s prohibition, Jeremiah prays beautifully again for them to close the chapter.

We have a message for our world, the western part of which is experimenting with all sorts of affront to God. That includes some of the “chosen”, evangelical Christians, in my view. We can pray for them all we like, but at some point God wants us to act.

Jeremiah 13

Good for nothing.

God gets Jeremiah to act out a bit of theatre, putting on a noble priestly garment, a sash, which if he wore typical prophet attire would have apparently looked like wearing a cummerbund and a hessian sack. Quite a sight.

He went to the Euphrates, a long way, to the place the invasion would come from, and buried the sash.

Then he traveled back after a few months and dig it up. It was ruined, useless.

In my new job producing materials for churches, I find encouragement from God’s use of illustrative material. But the message is devastating.

They are good for nothing. From the chosen people to useless.

Comparisons go on to be drawn to drunks, ignorant and stupid. And the public humiliation of prostitutes.

All you can do is put it out there. You can’t force people to repent, Jeremiah should convince us of that.

But it’s also a good time to look at the hardness in my own heart. I’ve been struggling in a practical level with lollies and alcohol. I don’t have a huge problem, but do have a bit more of both than is good for me. How hard is self discipline!

Isaiah 50

God’s extraordinary love for us, and what he wants of us.

Intimate workings of the the messiah’s servanthood.

It starts with the question “does God really care?” A striking divorce and debt metaphor is used by God to say “prove I have abandoned you… Where are the divorce papers, where is the bill of sale?”

We left him, he never left us. Very much to the contrary.

Second question “is God’s still in charge?” Fully. The examples of his might are arguably negative experiences, drying up rivers so that fish die, making the sky black.

The Israelites no doubt felt enveloped by blackness. But the blackness is from God, the problem is that there is no one who will obey him. Enter the servant.

The servant word is not used but the ritual of servanthood, ear piercing, is referred to in verse 5.

Israel’s slaves had a moment after 6 years of service where they could leave or stay. The ear piercing indicated the choice of a life of voluntary servanthood, and such is the messiah’s relationship to God the father.

His duties are to daily learn words that will sustain the weary. He is God’s servant, his duties are for us.

Does God care? He gives his back to be whipped, his beard to be pulled out, suffers utter humiliation and disgrace.

Being God, he could back out at any time. He doesn’t have to suffer! But as a servant he sets his face like flint and bares it, trusting in God’s might through the darkness, knowing God’s is stronger than any evil.

The enemies of God are compared to clothes that will wear out. Empty suits.

So we, the weary, can choose to be sustained by his words though the darkness. Or we can take matters in our own hands which is here described as walking by the light of our own torches. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, using your own judgement, not God’s word to guide your way. But it will only lead to more torment.

God is like a loving parent in the night, coming to you when you fear the dark saying “don’t worry, you’ll get there” and behind it is the knowledge that no one loves you more or would give more for you.

This is a beautiful chapter, hard to follow without explanation. God cares and is strong enough to give himself for you without flinching at the pain of sacrifice.

Isaiah 36

Some plot! I’ve been starting to wonder about the structure of Isaiah’s many miscellaneous poems about destruction and disaster.  The text switches to prose for this chapter.

Assyria takes the northern kingdom, and then envoys come to threaten the southern, which includes Jerusalem. We get the conversation, which is taunting saying “who do you trust?” 

They are the strongest power. They laugh at the idea Egypt night help Israel. They joke at the idea God might help them, because king Hezekiah has removed the holy places they recognise out of his devotion to Jehovah.

They deliberately speak the common tongue so that the guards around can hear the sledging and be demoralised. 

The representatives of king Hezekiah say nothing, as instructed, and return to him in a state of fear, tearing their clothing.

End of chapter!

2 Kings 23

The rest of Josiah’s reign. In a sense he was greater than David. Certainly he was the most godly King since David.

It simply says he loved the lord with all his heart. And he leads the people in that love.  So he actually does remove all worship of other Gods.

He celebrates Passover for the first time since time judges, pre the monarchy.

David, to give him his credit, couldn’t because the temple wasn’t set up.

There is a plan in this blessing of God’s I think. It’s setting a precedent for how the temple worship would operate post exile, though to Jesus day. It’s the true coming of monotheism to Israel. He makes a point of destroying the golden calf set up at Bethel by jeroboam, which reaches right back in tradition to the rebellion of the people in the book of exodus.

It’s a blessing to end the book on, the other end of the scale from Solomon, who squandered so much in a way.

And it really is end game after Josiah. Two of his sons become king in quick succession after he is killed in battle by the Pharaoh. The second son is a puppet king for Pharaoh, virtually his tax collector.  Yes after rediscovering Passover for the first time in many years, they are slaves of Egypt again.

1 Kings 6

The finished temple is glorious. It’s a labour of love and devotion for God, as good as they can make it.

It’s that awkward place where you are doing great work “for God”, and you get a certain pride in it, and you start to wonder if it’s for your own glory quite a bit too. My hobby is writing Christian songs, and it’s there all the time.

But endlessly wondering about motives is also a waste of time. St Paul said as long as Christ is proclaimed, yeah?

When God finally speaks mid chapter I think he’s thinking along similar lines. He says “about this house you are building…” And goes on to say that if they follow the law he will keep his promise and dwell among his people. How is that about the house? House not strictly needed.

For the rest of the chapter the “he” is disconcertingly Solomon, as in “he covered this in pure gold” or “he covered that in finest cedar”.

God doesn’t need their devotion to be expressed though architecture or expensive finishes, he needs it in their heart.

May the use of my time be an overflow of what is in my heart. I’ve been feeling a bit resentful about the time given to silly things at church but that is a good spirit to bring to it

Song: “Bigger than Hillsong”

Deuteronomy 27

New section. We’ve had all the rules now committing to them and the transition of leadership to settle the holy land.

They take a moment of silence and the priests declare them to be God’s people. 

First thing they will do is climb two mountains. Mountains equal meeting God.

One will be for curses, one for blessings.

The curse mountain has all the law written on some of its stones, and an altar for sacrifice also piled up of its uncarved stones.

They’ll do a fellowship offering, ie: one that celebrates God’s presence rather than removing sin. And they will formally declare that rejecting God, being greedy, unfair, uncaring to the vulnerable or sexually immoral will bring God’s curse.

It is a marker, a baseline, a resolution they will be able to look back on and test their society against. When they are deep in an argument about tribal boundaries, they will look back on this moment and remember declaring before God as a nation that they would be cursed if they ever did this.

I don’t remember becoming a Christian, I don’t have a moment of dedication of my life to God. Like the Israelites who would be born in the promised land, I have the choice to accept or forget every day the faith I was handed down by my parents. I pray for my children, and my witness to them.